(As an aside, 12th Street was later renamed Rosa Parks Blvd. Why did poor Ms. Parks have to get such a jacked up street named after her? But, I digress).
While many have blamed the riots for accelerating the "white flight" that had already been taking place in the city since the 1950s, many whites also point to the 1974 election of Coleman Young, Detroit's first black mayor, as a catalyst for driving whites out of Detroit once and for all. Here's a letter that was printed in today's Detroit Free Press as evidence:
The Free Press correctly identified the devastating white flight and white avoidance of Detroit, which accelerated following the 1967 riots. You ignored, however, the subsequent, even more disastrous, influence of Mayor Coleman Young after he took over in 1974. He overtly turned Detroit into a black city, essential putting up a "keep out" sign for whites. How ironic these days, when so much effort is now going into the cause of diversity.
To hear some whites tell it, one would think that Mayor Young was the black equivalent of the famed segregationist George Wallace, and that he wished for nothing more than to drive out every single blue-eyed devil from the city limits. Where on earth this perception of Coleman Young comes from is beyond me, but I'll take a crack at it.
As the city of Detroit's black population grew, Coleman Young simply sought equality and fairness for blacks in government and in business. He made bold moves to integrate the police department, put blacks into leadership positions in city government, and paved the way for black businessmen to get a piece of the economic pie by making city-funded contracts available to them. Young simply wanted to provide access to those who had been largely shut out of opportunities long enjoyed by whites. What irritated whites was that he wasn't afraid to say so.
There's also an urban legend that's been floating around since 1974 claiming that Young told whites to "hit 8 Mile", a myth with absolutely no teeth to it. In fact, in his inaugural address, the newly-elected Young told criminals and thugs, whether they were black or white, to hit 8 Mile Road. Here's the exact quote:
I issue a warning to all those pushers, to all rip-off artists, to all muggers: It’s time to leave Detroit; hit Eight Mile Road! And I don’t give a damn if they are black or white, or if they wear Superfly suits or blue uniforms with silver badges. Hit the road.
Simply put, he wanted the criminals, not the white folks, to get out of Detroit. How anyone could interpret what he said to mean something else is puzzling.
Far from hating whites, Young actively kept ties with influential whites in the business community. In fact, two of Young's closest associates were the late Henry Ford II, aka "Hank the Deuce", and businessman Max Fisher, two white men. What Young did hate, however, was the power structure that was controlled by whites that was boldly determined to relegate blacks to second-class citizenship.
This is not to say that Coleman Young was a perfect mayor by any means. While in many African-American circles, he is revered, if not deified, he certainly had his fair share of faults. He probably stayed in office two terms too many. As he continued to serve, he became more cantankerous and insular. Calling former president Ronald Reagan "old pruneface" probably didn't help Detroit win any points in Washington at that time, either. Yet, the city continued to crumble around him, and in his last few terms, he seemed incapable of reversing Detroit's decline, as whites (and increasingly, blacks) continued to take their resources out of the city limits.
So no, I don't believe that Coleman Young hated whites. If anything, I think it was the other way around, based upon the comments that I hear even to this day.